If you’re like most people, the only thing you know about tires is that they are the black rubber things on the wheels of your car. You might have some vague notion about snow tires, and if you’re lucky, some clue on how to change one. (I do not…that’s what the auto club is for…I tried once, and my first car ended up on the back of a flat bed being hauled down to the dealership.)
I was once like most people, but unfortunately I now know a little more than I ever cared to know about tires. There are reasons for this. My very first car, a hand me down from my parents, came to me with mileage in the low six digits, a whole host of dings and dents, a tape player that didn’t work, and a cigarette burn or four. (It just dawned on me that my stepmother, that cars FIRST owner, was MY AGE when she got that car. And I got it just a few years later. Freak out moment going on. Breathe deep. In through the nose….out through the mouth.) Any-ole-how, that first car ate tires like Elvis ate a pork chop sandwich. I had it aligned. I always had the service done. But it was wrecked a time or six, and I think it was just never quite right after the first two or three. At it’s worst, I literally had to get new tires every other oil change. Lucky for me, it took the most common tire size known to man, and a new pair of fronts could be had for under $100 bucks–installed.
After that car went on to the great dealership in the sky, I had two more cars and neither of them ever needed a tire replaced. Then came the first car I bought as a young professional. I bought it because it was cheap, nice looking, and a friend of mine had a great experience with the same model. Had I known anything about tires, I might have recognized that the car’s snazzy 16″ wheels were wearing Z-rated “performance” tires. The “Z” standing for “zillion” which is how many dollars you will spend keeping tires on such an automobile. Imagine my shock when my first set wore out when the car wasn’t even a year old. And in the 60-some thousand miles I put on that car, I had to get FOUR SETS of tires. At a minimum of $400 a change. And they always wore out at the worst possible financial time. When I traded up to my next car, I budgeted that even though the payment was higher, my monthly outlay would decrease by the shear fact that I wouldn’t have to get new tires every year. And I was right. The tires had over 50,000 miles on them when I replaced the set, not because they were worn, but because of a flat.
The next car was a convertible. Not only did it take the dreaded “Z” tires, but the front tires were a different size than the rears, meaning they couldn’t be rotated. I got rid of that car before it ever needed a tire change, but I understand it would eat a set in 12,000 miles and leave you with a $700 bill for replacement. That dreaded expense was part of the reason I swapped the convertible for my current car, which rode on “normal” looking Bridgestones–similar to the ones I’d gotten over 50,000 miles out of on a previous auto.
Last week, I turned into a parking space, got out, and noticed that my front tires were BALD. Down to the tread-wear bar. “That can’t be!” I told myself. Not only were they “normal” tires, they had spent their lives inflated with nitrogen, been rotated three times, and never driven aggressively. I called the dealership.
“I don’t think they have a warranty.” the guy told me, “‘Sides, we aren’t a Bridgestone dealer, you’ll have to take it down to one.” (Howthey were not a dealer when I purchased a single replacement from them is lost on me.) I did some internet research. According to Bridgestone’s site, such a tire should carry a 50,000 mile tread-life warranty. I hustled down to the local tire shop. They agreed the tires were shot, called up Bridgestone to open a claim, and were told the warranty didn’t apply when they were installed as original equipment. What???
Sure enough, in the fine print of my warranty materials, the treadlife warranty only applies if the tires were installed by a one armed, one horned, flying purple tire eater. (That may as well have been the case). So the tire shop fella shows me two options for replacement–one just south of $500 and one just north. I didn’t have time to get them changed then, but brought the car back the next day. A second guy pulls up my information.
“I don’t know why he offered you these tires, they aren’t gonna work on your car.”
Fan-friggin-tastic! What will then? The answer of course, was more expensive. And as usual, such an expense occurred at a completely inopportune time. But an hour later, I rolled off with safe, new tires that carry an 80,000 mile warranty, an empty bank account, and some seething words for all parties involved.